Political Aptitude Test

July 31, 1996


See The Answer


Safety Net Concern Drives The Gender Gap

By Bill Schneider/CNN

WASHINGTON (Aug. 2) -- Right now, Bob Dole is running seven points behind President Bill Clinton among men. That's bad for Dole.

He's running 26 points behind Clinton among women. That's worse.

What's the issue driving that big gender gap? Is it ...

A) crime?
B) abortion?
C) the safety net?
D) affirmative action?
E) welfare

And the answer is... C) the safety net.

Since the early 1980s, women have been more likely than men to call themselves Democrats. It started when Republicans nominated Ronald Reagan and adopted his conservative, anti-government philosophy.

Women tend to be more pro-government than men. They want the government to be there to protect people, particularly vulnerable groups like poor people, children and the elderly.

And they want the government to be there to protect women themselves, who have just begun to achieve economic independence in this country in the last 20 years. Many women feel vulnerable in the marketplace. They want the safety net to be there in case they fall.

Democrats have pledged to protect safety net programs like Medicaid and child care and to extend the safety net with programs like family leave.

Many women are worried that Republicans, with all their talk of spending cuts and deregulation, will shred the safety net. Dole once said to the Republican Party, "I can be Ronald Reagan if you want me to." To get women's votes, he is going to have to prove he's not Ronald Reagan.

Clinton risked losing the support of some women voters when he said this week he would sign welfare reform.

That's exactly why he went to great lengths to say that the safety net for children would still be there. He argued that money for nutrition, child care and health care programs would be protected and that he intends to got tough with deadbeat dads who don't pay their child support.

In the end, however, the president knew the risk wasn't too great. Dole congratulated the president for signing what he called the Dole welfare reform bill. Those women voters who don't like welfare reform won't have much of a choice in this election.

One thing is sure: Abortion is not the issue that fuels the gender gap. Men are more likely to describe themselves as "pro-choice" than women. Women are more divided over the abortion issue.

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